Understanding The Outreach Of Doctors Without Borders

April 6th, 2014

Doctors without borders, also known as MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) is an impartial organization that was founded for purely humanitarian reasons. It remains neutral in the fact that it never promotes or campaigns for any political, religious or country’s personal agenda. The focus of MSF is to provide the best possible medical care to those who truly need it the most. The organization was built on the belief that every person, no matter their creed, religion, race, gender or political affiliation should have the right and access to quality medical care or treatment.

women and baby

The history of MSF is an inspiring story that shows the true power that individuals can have in making a real difference in the world. When Paris was in turmoil in May 1968, several young doctors recognized the need to get help to the victims caught up in the revolt and destruction. This action coincided with the first images being broadcast to the world of heartbreaking conditions that included children suffering and starving in several countries. Those events led the doctors to create a movement that would aid these victims. While the Red Cross was already a presence in some situations, they were not truly an organization dedicated to the medical requirements of people in need. The group of doctors felt that the Red Cross was neglecting many areas of assistance and they also wanted to make the world more aware of the horrific events taking place. As years followed, other doctors and volunteers joined the movement. Their work put in place the groundwork and basis for what would become the MSF.

This organization was founded by those French doctors who began the initial movement in that country. In fact, the first office was located in Paris. However, since the early 80′s, 28 countries have seen new offices open and the group now has over 30,000 people working for them. The MSF came to the United States in 1990 and quickly established a powerful presence in New York. The expansion into the States allowed the organization to greatly increase its ability to recruit, advocate and raise funding. Since that time, the US office has branched out and assumed responsibility for programs in several other countries such as Ethiopia, Chad and Sudan.

world map

The MSF provides medical care and assistance to victims in several categories. These include those affected by natural or man made disasters, victims of armed conflict, individuals or groups that are discriminated against by their own health care programs, people who suffer from malnutrition as well as those who are being affected by deadly epidemics. The MSF serves each category in specific ways.

1. Epidemics
The organization responds to various outbreaks of cholera, measles, malaria and other infectious and fatal diseases that can be potentially spread throughout the population. It also aids individuals who are suffering from tuberculosis, HIV or AIDS. Some of the world’s poorest people cannot access the medications they need so the MSF will reach out and make those resources available.

doctor and woman

2. Malnutrition
The hard reality is that over 190 million children all over the world are suffering from malnutrition and its devastating effects. The organization strives to provide families with the therapeutic and healing foods that can make a real difference in their children’s lives. These foods are designed to provide all the minerals, nutrients, vitamins and other things necessary to encourage proper child development. The MSF also utilizes every media resource available to bring awareness and education to people all over the world. Their goal is to bring about a call for action from government and other groups to help eradicate child hunger along with its devastating effects.

3. Armed Conflict
One of the initial needs that were recognized by the founding members of the organization was the plight of the injured and wounded victims that were left in the wake of violent conflicts. The group tends to those who receive afflictions from knives, guns, beatings, bombings, etc. After such events, there are also people who become unable to get to treatment when needed. The MSF will work to get into those areas and reach those people. They also provide basic necessities for victims who may have been displaced due to war. Even on the spot surgery and emergency medical procedures can be performed by the large group of medical professionals.

man and child

4. Natural Disasters and Exclusion from Healthcare
The organization will come in after a disaster and help with the clean up and rebuilding process. They will also tend to wounded and ill residents as well. Around the world, those individuals who face exclusion from healthcare programs can also find assistance through the MSF.

Not only does Doctors without Borders provide these services, they also call on government and other political officials to ensure that their focus is on the well being and care of the people they represent. The organization is always ready to bring any of these issues to the forefront, whether it is through media outlets, education or recruitment.

Blood Diamonds And Conflict Gold Are Mined In Misery And Finance Wars

February 10th, 2014

Diamonds mined in a war zone and sold in order to finance that war or some warlord’s insurgency are known as blood diamonds. The negativity of the term is used specifically to highlight the horrible consequences of the diamond trade in such countries or to label the diamonds as having come from such a place. Also known as conflict diamonds or war diamonds, those stones mined in the African countries of Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Côte d’Ivoire have earned this name.

Diamond mining was the resource used by the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) to finance its civil war with the government from 1992 through 1998. It was this conflict that brought the practice to the attention of the world and the United Nations and prompted the first Security Council Resolution (1173) specifically against using the mining of diamonds for funding a war. Of Angola’s total diamond production in the 1980s, an estimated 20 percent of the gems were sold for illegal purposes, almost all of it supporting armed conflict.

UNITA ignored UN Resolution 1173 and continued to sell their diamonds or to trade them. The United Nations appointed Robert Fowler to head an investigation into how diamond mining and smuggling was operating, in which countries, by what organizations, and who was involved in the trade from country to country.  This report is now famous for establishing the first publicly known direct link between the diamond trade and third world conflicts. This report led to the eventual development of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

Liberia was engaged in its own civil war from 1989 until 2003. In 2000, Liberia’s president Charles G. Taylor was accused by the United Nations of assisting the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in its neighbor Sierra Leone. He was supplying RUF with training for the troops and with weapons in exchange for diamonds. In 2001, the U.N. levied sanctions on Liberia’s diamond trade.  In 2003, Taylor withdrew to Nigeria. He then went on trial in 2006 at The Hague on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Found guilty in April of 2012, he is serving a 50 year sentence in Great Britain.

Liberia is now at peace and the U. N. has lifted the sanctions against them. They are working on constructing a legitimate diamond mining industry. As such, Liberia is a member of the Kimberley Process. Côte d’Ivoire began to develop their diamond industry in the 1990s but their story does not have such a good ending yet. In 1999, there was a coup to overthrow the government that began a civil war. Côte d’Ivoire became a convenient route through which its neighbors Sierra Leone and Liberia could export their diamonds. Foreign investment began withdrawing from the country so the nation attempted to stop the illegal trade by ending all mining. The U.N. Security Council banned all diamond exports from Côte d’Ivoire in 2005. Despite these efforts, the illegal trade still exists here.

The DRC struggled through civil wars in the 1990s but has become a member of the Kimberley Process and currently exports around eight percent of the world’s diamonds. The Congo was expelled from the Process in 2004 because it was exporting large amounts of diamonds but it has no official mining industry and was falsifying its certification documents. It was later readmitted in 2007. The Kimberley Process has ultimately failed to stem the flow of blood diamonds for several reasons, one of which is corrupt government officials willing to accept bribes to produce any necessary documents.

The leading African diamond-producing countries sent representatives to Kimberley, South Africa in 2001 and formed the World Diamond Council. They devised a certification process by which all exported rough diamonds could be certified as coming from a conflict-free nation. It was approved by the U. N. on March 13, 2002. It attempted to force governments to be honest in keeping records of their diamond imports and exports and provide transparency in the industry.  It is known as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. Zimbabwe is becoming the test case on whether it will continue to be of any relevance at all. Still a member and still categorized as a “conflict free” diamond exporter, the country’s extended Marange diamond fields are run by military syndicates who regularly beat and kill their miners. There has even been a documented mass murder there of mine workers by helicopter gunships. It only takes one member state to veto any Kimberley Process punitive action against member countries and so no action has so far ever been taken against Zimbabwe for its heinous violations.

The conflict trade is not confined just to the diamond industry. Armies and rebel fighters have taken over the mineral ores in some countries, such as in the eastern DRC. These mineral ores are used in the making of computers and cell phone components, sent into the worldwide supply chain and smelted into refined metals by large international firms. Leading brand name companies are even today being checked out to see if they have links to this rogue trade. Meanwhile back in the Congo, the local populations have been extorted, made homeless, beaten, starved, raped, massacred and forced into labor in horrible conditions in order to produce these ores.

On CBS network television, a 60 Minutes segment showed film images of gold mine workers, a good number of them just children, digging in open pits with just their hands. Many people die in rock slides and mudslides. They are also exposed to many environmental hazards the gold and mineral mining produces. Mercury is added to sediments that are rich in minerals to separate out the gold. When the mixture is heated, the process binds the gold together. Unfortunately, it releases fumes the workers breathe and those fumes can cause neurological damage.  Less attention has been given to the issues of conflict gold mining as diamonds have received, but the same lust for money leads to some of the same tragic consequences for the countries’ people.